2007-10-16 23:36:59 UTC
The article begins with "Kate Bainbridge, a twenty-six-year-old
schoolteacher who had become comatose after a flulike illness, and was
eventually diagnosed as being in what neurologists call a vegetative
Adrian Owen, a neuroscientist began studying patients like
Bainbridge. When he put her in a PET (positron-emission tomography)
scanner and showed her pictures of her family, it seemed to generate a
response in the fusiform gyrus portion of her brain that was exactly
like that of a so-called "normal" person.
Rather than throw his hands up and praise god for a miracle like any
creationist or ID advocate would, Owen pursued the scientific method.
Because apparent image recognition might be an unreliable guide to
brain activity, Owen experimented with auditory stimuli rather than
visual, and switched to using an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance
scanner. He also fed the patients ambiguous sentences - one might
begin: "The shell was" leading the patient to think it was going to be
about a sea shell, but it would end with "fired at the tank" changing
the context entirely.
Since vegetative states are pretty much the end of the line, Owen
found only two people out of all those he tested who seemed to give an
appropriate response to this switch in meaning. To these two, he gave
the auditory request that they imagine they were playing a sport -
with Bainbridge it was tennis, with the other patient, soccer.
Bainbridge "produced a beautiful activation, indistinguishable from
those of the group of normal volunteers". The other patient responded
The article goes on to discuss how poorly we have been able to define
consciousness, and therefore to determine whether it is present or
absent in people with traumatic brain injury (TBI).
Such patients have been effectively written off when, in fact, they
were able to recover to an extent with appropriate external
"[Joseph Giacino] recalled making rounds at the institute with two
eminent neurologists and stopping at the bedside of a woman who had
had a brain hemorrhage. The neurologists examined the woman, who lay
with her eyes half closed and did not respond to the doctors'
commands. The neurologists concluded that she was in a vegetative
state. 'So I sort of sheepishly said, 'Let me show you what happens
when we stimulate her,' Giacino recalled. He had been using a
technique called 'deep-pressure stimulation,' which involves squeezing
a patient's muscles with force and precision. Giacino started with the
woman's face and worked his way down to her toes, pinching her muscles
between his fingers. As he explained, the nerve endings of the muscles
send impulses to the brain stem, which relays them to other brain
structures and rouses the patient to consciousness. 'I did a cycle of
deep-pressure stimulation, and within a minute or so she was talking
to us,' Giacino said. 'The neurologists were flabbergasted.' The woman
was able to say her name and her husband's name, and answer simple
questions, such as 'Is there a cup at your bedside?' After a few
minutes, however, she became unresponsive again.
Another patient had electrodes implanted in his brain. "When the
electrodes were turned on in the man's thalamus, his speech improved,
his movements became more fluid, and he was able to chew and swallow.
When the researchers turned off the electrical stimulation, the man
soon relapsed. He is now being given regular doses of electrical
stimulation and is able to speak in short sentences and to chew and
Prayer, Bible reading, divine revelation - none of it has led to a
single revelations about these people.
Scientific study, on the other hand, has led to interesting
discoveries. One of these is that the brain seems to be a series of
discrete modules, all of which have to be up and running before
consciousness can truly be present. This division of labor is shown
in people said to have "blindsight".
Such people may be unable to register items in one field of vision
(say on their left) but acquire them clearly in the other. On such
patient was shown two identical pictures of a house, one for each eye,
except that one house had flames coming from it. The patient reported
seeing no difference between the houses, but when asked in which she
would prefer to live, almost always chose the house that wasn't
burning. This indicated that the information was being processed, but
at a subconscious level.
The question behind all this is: where is the soul?
If the soul is unable to influence us in any way whatsoever, then it
is meaningless and a complete waste of time and thought. Indeed, the
soul cannot even be said to meaningfully inhabit the body if it cannot
interact with it in any way.
On the other hand, if there is a soul which does interact with our
physical body, then why has it never been discovered?
There are those simpletons who would argue that the soul does indeed
interact, but its interaction is below the threshold of humanity's
ability to detect it.
Yeah, right. God is always just around the corner! No matter how
many corners are flooded with illumination by the brilliant light of
science, he's always around the next one.
But guess what? If the soul is undetectable, by what occult criterion
do they even pretend to claim that they have one?
Clearly, either there is no soul or it isn't able to influence us, or
control us, or make any effort on our behalf, or even pretend it can
make up for deficits, either mental or physical. Part of the brain
goes missing, so does part of our personality. There is no soul to
fill in the gap, to take over, to pick up the slack. We're entirely
physical and only physical according to the best evidence we have
Why is this? Is it because not only is there no soul, there's no god